All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

About the book

Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret. Werner is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father’s life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering. At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in. Doerr’s combination of soaring imagination and meticulous observation is electric.

Reviewed by Fareham 5:30

Read this book! Read it now. It is wonderful – for many of us the best book we’ve read.
The descriptive writing is haunting. Each short chapter is so beautiful part of you wants to linger. The story is interesting, particularly how he weaves the tow key charcaters’ lives. The book is full of well-rounded characters that you care about.
The book provoked a good discussion on the morality and horrors of war – especially useful as seen from French and German perspectives.
This is a haunting story. We would definitely read all books by this author.

Star rating: *****

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The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison

About the book

31st August 1939: the world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic childless couple. Soon Anna gets drawn into their unravelling relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair, with unforeseen consequences.

 

Reviewed by Bridgemary Bookworms

“One found it depressing and is looking forward to a cheerier tale. Another enjoyed it but thought that her obsession with her teacher took over her life which was a shame. Well written with lots of psychological insights made for complex characters”

star rating ***

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The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard

About the book

The year is 1947. The great fire of the Second World War has convulsed Europe and Asia. In its wake, Aldred Leith, an acclaimed hero of the conflict, has spent two years in China at work on an account of world-transforming change there. Son of a famed and sexually ruthless novelist, Leith begins to resist his own self-sufficiency, nurtured by war. Peter Exley, another veteran and an art historian by training, is prosecuting war crimes committed by the Japanese. Both men have narrowly escaped death in battle, and Leith saved Exley’s life. The men have maintained long-distance friendship in a postwar loneliness that haunts them both, and which has swallowed Exley whole. Now in their thirties, with their youth behind them and their world in ruins, both must invent the future and retrieve a private humanity. Arriving in Occupied Japan to record the effects of the bomb at Hiroshima, Leith meets Benedict and Helen Driscoll, the Australian son and daughter of a tyrannical medical administrator. Benedict, at twenty, is doomed by a rare degenerative disease. Helen, still younger, is inseparable from her brother. Precocious, brilliant, sensitive, at home in the books they read together, these two have been, in Leith’s words, delivered by literature. The young people capture Leith’s sympathy; indeed, he finds himself struggling with his attraction to this girl whose feelings are as intense as his own and from whom he will soon be fatefully parted.

Reviewed by  Stubbington Book Circle:

The disjointed writing at the beginning captured the uncertain times they were living through.

Star rating: **

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Armageddon by Max Hastings

About the book

One of the greatest military feats during the Second World War was the transformation of the German force’s activities in the weeks following the battles in Holland and the German border, where the Allies had finally inflicted the greatest catastrophes of modern war on them. Somehow the Germans found the strength to halt the Allied advance in its tracks and to prolong the war to 1945. This book is the epic story of those last eight months of the war in northern Europe.

Reviewed by  Everton Reading Group:

An easy to read style which is fluent and engaging. Thought provoking and insightful facing overwhelming circumstances, especially in relation to Dresden. Gives different perspectives to warfare.

Star rating: ***

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The Luminous Life of Lily Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin

About the book

As the clock chimed the turn of the twentieth century, Lilly Nelly Aphrodite took her first breath. Born to a cabaret dancer and soon orphaned in a scandalous double murder, Lilly finds refuge at a Catholic orphanage, coming under the wing of the, at times, severe Sister August, the first in a string of lost loves. There she meets Hanne Schmidt, a teen prostitute, and forms a bond that will last them through tumultuous love affairs, disastrous marriages, and destitution during the First World War and the subsequent economic collapse. As the century progresses, Lilly and Hanne move from the tawdry glamour of the tingle-tangle nightclubs to the shadow world of health films before Lilly finds success and stardom in the new medium of motion pictures and ultimately falls in love with a man whose fate could cost her everything she has worked for or help her discover her true self.

Reviewed by Perspectives Reading Group:

Well researched and a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended for reading groups – good points for discussion. Unusual perspective on the German experience of the wars.

Star rating: ****

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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

About the book

Nine year old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no-one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas. Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

Reviewed by Petersfield U3A 1 Reading Group:

All our members enjoyed this story with its interesting approach through the boy’s eyes to the concentration camp. Very well written and worth reading.

Star rating: ****

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Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniéres

About the book

It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracised by the locals, but as a conscientious but far from fanatical soldier, whose main aim is to have a peaceful war, he proves in time to be civilised, humorous – and a consumate musician. When the local doctor’s daughter’s letters to her fiancé – and members of the underground – go unanswered, the working of the eternal triangle seems inevitable. But can this fragile love survive as a war of bestial savagery gets closer and the lines are drawn between invader and defender?

Reviewed by Museum Book Group:

A good read. Shows the effect of war on a small community. The relationship between the German and Italian occupiers. The effect on the occupied Greek community. The love story between Captain Correlli and Pelagia. The futility of war and the waste of two lives.

Star rating: ***

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